Surrender 82: Boneheads in Bentonville Arkansas

I had the opportunity today to try a restaurant for the first time, an experience I always enjoy. I joined Greg and his cousins, Pam and Linda, at Boneheads in Bentonville, AR, for an early dinner. 

I was intrigued. This franchise, with 14 locations scattered primarily throughout the South, features grilled fish and something called piri piri chicken. 

Piri piri is a small pepper that grows in Angola, Uganda, Malawi, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, the tropical forests of South Sudan and the highlands of Ethiopia. It was brought to India by the Portuguese. 

This spicy pepper is the foundational ingredient in piri piri sauce, which also contains lemon juice, vinegar, oil, citrus peel, onion and a variety of herbs and spices. Boneheads marinates chicken in the sauce, and uses it as a base for other sauces. 

 There was another piece of fish on this plate and more fries. I forgot to take a pic before I started eating.  

I ordered the fish and chips, getting perfectly seasoned sweet potato fries rather than regular fries. We had several choices among the bottles of piri piri sauce on the table. I sampled the medium heat sauce. It was a delicious accompaniment to the tasty fish! Greg also had fish and chips, while Pam and Linda tried the shrimp and chicken. 


We had a leisurely dinner with these pretty girls, catching up on news and families. Linda lives in Illinois, so it is great to connect when she’s in Arkansas for a visit. Although I see Pam more often, it’s always wonderful to see her too! They graciously allowed their picture to be taken, to capture the moment. It’s a good thing the restaurant wasn’t busy with their dinner crowd yet, as we got the giggles during the impromptu photo shoot. 

I highly recommend Boneheads, with their bright and clean interior and festive atmosphere.  I look forward to sampling their grilled mahi mahi or the piri piri chicken on another visit. And I look forward to another cheery meal with Pam and Linda. Let’s get together again soon. 


Journey 227: More Treasures From Annie

Back across Kansas we went today, my mom, sisters and I, to Derby, just south of Wichita. We met my cousins, Sheila and Greg, and Greg’s son Wes, at Aunt Annie’s house. My beautiful aunt passed away this past spring. This will most likely be the last time I visit her house. 

One of the powerful experiences that has come out of so many losses this year is that I have spent more time with my cousins. We have determined that it is important to  connect, now, rather than gather only during funerals. I am enjoying the reconnections, the laughter, the sharing of stories, the hugs.

We’ve spent a fun day together, doing all of those things, as we sort through the remainder of my aunt’s possessions. My cousins very generously invited my mom, sisters and me to open boxes, look through piles of old photos, and sort through treasures. I took home items for my backyard garden earlier this year and I think of Aunt Annie every time I look at the metal containers holding brightly colored flowers. 

I picked up several items today…a crystal vinegar cruet, vintage china, and other small pieces. In the backyard I wandered about, enjoying my aunt’s gardens, admiring the flowers in bloom. In the garden shed, I found an amazing item for my own garden…a large wooden box with faded red paint. It’s perfect to hold terra cotta pots, which I found nestled on shelves. 

I’ll save these items for next spring, when I’ll fill the flower pots with an assortment of plants. Herbs would be a great choice. Then I’ll find the right spot in the garden to display this earthy vignette, with its connections to Annie. 

I so appreciate my cousins and sisters. They are such gracious, genuine souls. As we chatted and laughed together over dinner tonight, I marveled at the passage of time that has aged us all from rowdy, inquisitive kids…to rowdy, intelligent adults.  I’m grateful for my mother as well, with her wisdom and her playful spirit. I am glad to have each as a traveling companion, through the challenges and joys of life’s journey. May we have many more adventures together. 

Journey 205: Cousin’s Day

Today is Cousin’s Day, and what a great time to think about my amazing cousins and the joy they’ve brought into my life. It is true that cousins are often our first playmates and friends, as children. We learn about sharing and taking turns, settling squabbles and watching out for each other, kindness and being fair. It’s our first realization that family is bigger than our mom and dad, siblings and grandparents.

I have been so blessed with the cousins that I have. Some of my happiest and most fun childhood memories involved my cousins…four on my mother’s side of the family…and thirteen on my father’s side. That’s a bunch of playmates! And play is what we did so well. In the playing I learned about life and adventure, about work and growing up.

It saddens me that as we all grew up and found our way in the world, our paths took us far from each other. Although geographically we all lived near one other, we saw each other less and less as we raised families of our own, worked, lived busy lives. Occasionally Mindy and I connected, because she lived closest to me, but I rarely saw the others.

As adults approaching middle age, we reached the point where loss began to occur within the larger family. When grandparents passed, we cousins huddled together in grief, comforting each other, reconnecting, vowing to see each other more often. We might have a cousins’ gathering or two. And then another funeral would solemnly remind us that time had again slipped away.

It was the loss of my father five years ago, followed by the loss of my Aunt Glenda, that deepened the desire to gather more frequently, to celebrate life, rather than meet at funerals to grieve and lament the passing of time. This year so many of my cousins have been touched by loss, bidding mothers and fathers good-bye. Two of my cousins this very day held a visitation to honor their mother who passed two days ago.  My cousin Mindy slipped away from us too this year. More than ever, I cherish my family, desiring to rejoice with the living, even while remembering the departed. And so we shall.

I am so grateful for my cousins, these childhood playmates who have indeed become dear friends. In fond memory of my cousins Bill, Steven, and Mindy, who have blazed the trail before us into the Beyond, I love you and miss you. And to my cousins Greg, Charlie, Sheila, Sarah, Max, Denny, Pam, Alan, David, Christie, Jim, Mike, Lisa and Jeff…Happy Cousin’s Day. I love you. Thank you for journeying with me. Let’s get together again…soon.

Journey 150: Girls’ Afternoon


Aubrey Rilynn Moore. London Kate Miller. In reality, these two little girls, ages 6 and 5 respectively, are second cousins. Their fathers are first cousins. In their hearts and minds, these two have been best friends and sisters since they were each old enough to toddle about and talk. 

Aubrey is my granddaughter and London is my sister Linda’s granddaughter. As often as we can, working with everyone’s schedules, we get these little girls together to play. Because of school and parents’ schedules, it’s been a couple of months since the girls have had a play date. We made that happen today, declaring a girls’ afternoon. 


After lunch and time in the playground area at Chick-Fil-A, a favorite hang out for Aubrey and London, we camped out at Linda’s house. The cool rainy weather changed our original plans, keeping us indoors for a time. But that didn’t matter to these cuties. They were happy to see each other, happy to have time to chat and play. When the sprinkles stopped for a while, we went for a walk, the girls pushing baby dolls in strollers. 

Back at the house a sound that excites children everywhere caught their attention. The ice cream truck was coming, its familiar tune announcing its progress through the neighborhood. Of course, the driver was thrilled to stop for these bight eyed girls. 

The girls had a wonderful afternoon together. They played indoors and out, introduced themselves to the new children who have moved into the neighborhood, shared, laughed, acted silly, talked Yaya and Gigi into not one but two walks through the neighborhood. Linda and I are always there, at the edges of their playfulness, listening, watching, loving these sweet girls. 

As I was the observer of their joyful time together, I was struck with a sudden thought. They are growing up. Of course they are, getting taller, learning so much. What I noticed was how their conversations are shifting, their awareness of the world deepening. The little squabbles over who plays with what have disappeared. They were kind and polite, to each other and to their grandmothers, and to those who served them food or stood in line with them in the bathroom.  There was no pouting, no tears, no sassiness. High energy, yes, hilarious conversations and amusing antics, oh yeah. But they are transitioning, from little kids to thoughtful young ladies who certainly know how to have fun while interacting at a high level, socially and intellectually. 

Too soon, London and Aubrey will leave childhood behind and gracefully enter their teens. In their fresh, beautiful faces I caught glimpses of the young ladies who are emerging. I saw a flash of the future today…prom dresses and drivers licenses and first love….and Aubrey and London, poised, confident, joyful, walking arm in arm, chatting as they have always done. And while it brought a sting of tears to my eyes, it brought great joy to my heart. Cousins/sisters/friends….I’m so grateful for these girls and so grateful that they have each other. They share a deep bond, these two. Linda and I are blessed to get to hang out with them. 


Journey 143: Chillin’ at Chili’s


After a pleasant and lengthy visit with Greg’s dad in Decatur, AR today, Greg and I hopped over to Rogers, AR to browse in a Barnes & Noble. We enjoy this bookstore and Joplin doesn’t have one. Today, however, we were passing time as we waited for two awesome people to join us for dinner at a nearby restaurant.  

It has been fun having Greg’s cousin Pam and her husband Jay living in NW Arkansas. In the past year, especially,  we’ve had opportunity to get together often, and it is always fun. 


This evening we sat down to share a meal at another place that Joplin doesn’t have…yet…a Chili’s Grill & Bar. Featuring Tex-Mex food, this restaurant is a casual dining franchise based out of Texas. The food and service were excellent. 

It was the company that was most excellent though.  I enjoyed catching up with Pam and Jay. We chatted about work and our families, laughed as we shared stories, debated over dinner selections. Pam stayed with her traditional favorite…chicken strips. The rest of us dined on chicken enchiladas with sour cream sauce, lime rice and black beans. Delicious and huge portions. 

It was a great evening, eating together, before Greg and I headed back to Joplin. I really appreciate Pam. I’ve known her since I was a teenager, and she’s not only a friend…I consider her family too. She’s fun with a great sense of humor and shows kindness, concern and compassion toward others.  I’ve only known Jay for a short time, but his quiet steadfastness complements Pam perfectly, and he too has a great heart, open and accepting toward others. 

For Greg, whose only sibling, Ray, passed 13 years ago, Pam is like the sister he never had. With only his father remaining, in his original familial group, it has been important for Greg to reconnect with his cousins: Pam, her sister Linda and brothers Mark and Tim, and their children and grandchildren. Family is important. Family is vital. There’s not only a shared heritage but shared stories and a shared past as well. 

It’s a bonus when you all like each other and enjoy spending time together! Here’s to many more lunches, dinners and opportunities to hang out. 


Journey 121: We’re Not in Kansas Anymore…Oh Wait, Yes We Are!


Today my mom and I journeyed across Kansas again, bound for her sister’s house near Wichita. Exactly one month ago we said “see you later” to my sweet Aunt Annie. Today we met with two of Annie’s children, my cousins, as they are sorting through their parents’ belongings, in preparation for selling the house. 

It’s a bittersweet task. Memories swirl and tears flow and laughter rings out as stories are told. In fact, each item in the house has a story attached to it. My mom and cousins and I don’t always know the whole tale, which leads to wonderment and speculation. What a precious time we all spent this evening, cradling items, remembering, exclaiming over an uncovered treasure. My cousins are the most gracious of people, keeping a few keepsakes for themselves and sharing with the rest of the family so that we can all cherish an item that belonged to my aunt or my grandmother or even my great-great-grandmother. I’m so grateful for them. 

Monday happens to be one of my cousin’s birthday. Greg is having one of those milestone birthdays and it was fun to visit with him and his wife tonight, reminiscing and laughing over one of my mom’s favorite stories about her nephew. 

She was only 15 years old when Greg was born. She claims he was the most adorable baby and toddler. If this normally sweet boy was being a bit ornery, my just as ornery mother brought him into obedience by telling him there was a chicken hawk down the road that was going to get him. 

Greg says it was several years before he even knew what a chicken hawk was! And that they didn’t gobble up wayward boys. The words “chicken hawk” still bring a smile to his face. I’ve always admired and appreciated my eldest cousin. With two sisters and four female cousins, the poor guy was badly outnumbered yet he never complained and was patient and kind to all the girls in the family. 

We all dined this evening at a small  family owned restaurant featuring seafood. The fish and shrimp were excellent and the servings plentiful. Greg, ever generous, shared his gator with any of us who wanted a bite. I’ve never sampled gator before. It was  so good! 

Tomorrow is another day of sorting and visiting and remembering. In the midst of it all, I am reminded that we are so much more than the earthly possessions that we accumulate. However, when one who is dear departs, going where we cannot yet follow, it is so comforting to hold in our hands an item that connects us to that loved one, to memories of days long past. I feel the energy, the spirit of my aunt on these things she once used and cherished. I am grateful for these mementos of her life. 


Journey 92: Fireworks for Uncle Dale


Today my family on my dad’s side gathered in Tulsa, OK, to honor and celebrate my uncle. Dale Sheridan Aaron was another pillar in my life, a tall, kind hearted man, husband to my dad’s sister, Aunt June. They married before I was born and so I’ve known Uncle Dale all my life. 

In spite of that long relationship, and hours and hours spent in his presence as a child, playing with my five Aaron cousins, I learned things about my uncle today that I did not know. I didn’t know that his hometown was Cassville, MO, and that his family had a feed store there. I didn’t realize he had three brothers AND three sisters. Or that he loved to fish for trout in Arkansas. I knew he served his country in the Navy but I learned today that he served as an aircraft mechanic. 


What I did know about this dear man was that he loved his family. He and my aunt were married for 62 years and they earned the title of Lovebirds due to their obvious affection for each other. Dale loved his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. From them I heard words like hero, superman, wise, protector. My uncle was a quiet man, known to have a toothpick in his mouth most of the time, unless someone in his family was bullied or menaced…and then a lion-like fierceness emerged to subdue the threat. 


I also remember my uncle as a hard working man, spending years in the insurance and newspaper industries. As I entered my teens, Dale opened fireworks stands just outside the city limits of Tulsa. I was so excited when he offered me and my younger sister Linda jobs helping out in the stands, selling a variety of fireworks. He never knew this, but I was so honored to be asked and I wanted to do an excellent job working for him. I set up a mock firework stand in my dad’s house and practiced waiting on customers and making change.


Linda and I spent several happy summers employed by Uncle Dale and working side by side with our cousins. What fun times those were, selling fireworks and having light-hearted and serious discussions with my cousins about life, about the opposite sex, about growing up. I had my first lessons in business, working for Uncle Dale, lessons that ignited an entrepreneurial spirit within me. I also had my first encounter with the law!

After long hot hours spent inside a wooden stand, open to the scorching July heat, my cousins, sister and I would run and play in the big open field nearby after dark. There was a huge billboard in that field and we created a crazy game. Some of us would climb up onto the billboard platform while those remaining on the ground threw lit bottle rockets at us. The idea was to dance and duck and dodge the rockets without being hit. On one of my turns on the ground a bottle rocket that I had just ignited got away from me and shot out into the busy street, exploding beneath a car. It wasn’t just any car. It was a police car. The officer immediately wheeled into the parking lot. My companions scattered and I stood, trembling, wondering what my dad would say when I got to make my one phone call from jail. Uncle Dale strolled out to meet the officer, toothpick in his mouth. I don’t remember what was said, other than I was warned by the officer to be more careful. As he drove away, I turned to face my uncle, wondering if I was going to be scolded or worse, fired. He chewed on his toothpick, looking at me with a twinkle in his eyes. His lips twitched into a smile, and without saying a word, he turned and walked back to the stands to close up for the day. I’ve never forgotten that night and how my uncle handled the situation and showed compassion and humor toward me. 


After a beautiful service the family gathered at the cemetery for a military graveside ceremony. It was very soulful to watch the removal of the American flag that shielded the casket. We stood silently as Taps was played, the haunting tune synonymous with farewell, and as the flag was folded by two Navy Honor Guards. Tears ran down our cheeks as a young man knelt before my sweet aunt and presented her with the flag, his voice cracking with emotion as he expressed gratitude for my uncle’s service. We concluded our time together with a meal back at the church. It was a precious time of sharing stories and reconnecting, hugging and promising to stay in touch. 


       Aunt June and three of my cousins. 

I thought about my uncle on the drive home. I love the connection we shared around the 4th of July and the firework stands. Ironically, my Aunt Annie, whose life we celebrated yesterday as we laid her to rest, was born on July 4th. Which led my mind to my garden. There is a flower called the Gomphrena Firework Plant. It’s showy blossoms resemble fireworks as the explode in the sky. I will plant those flowers in my garden, to remind me of Uncle Dale and those fun summers when he was my boss. 


When fireworks light up the sky, they bloom, like flowers, opening in explosions of color…powerful, beautiful, fleeting…and then they are gone, leaving an after image that slowly fades away. Life is like that. We bloom, opening, growing, expanding outward, our brilliance lighting the way for others before we fade, leaving memories that linger for a time. Uncle Dale, your light was magnificent and beautiful. I’ll never see a display of fireworks without thinking of you. I am so grateful to have had you in my life. I love you….and I’ll see you later. 


Journey 91: From Annie’s Garden to Mine

Annie teen

On this bright and beautiful spring day, my family gathered to celebrate the life of my dear aunt, Anna Lou Reynolds, affectionately known as Annie to those who knew and loved her. Over her lifetime, that was a huge number of people. I was reminded today that my aunt called friend anyone that she knew longer than 15 minutes.

I knew her for much longer than that, of course. She was a constant in my life, my mother’s older sister, mom to three of my cousins, Uncle Ralph’s adored wife. Although these relatives lived in Kansas, near Wichita, we spent much time together throughout my childhood and my teens. My sisters and my cousins and I were raised in close kinship, much as my children were raised with their cousins and my grandchildren now spend time with my sisters’ grandchildren.

I always knew everything was going to be fine when my Aunt Annie showed up. Fun times shadowed us throughout the visit, and stories flowed freely each evening around the dinner table. My aunt talked with her hands, gesturing to punctuate her sentences, her soft southern drawl as distinctive as the glint of humor in her eyes. I watched her a lot, unbeknownst to her, the eldest child in her family, older sister to my mom and my uncle Ben. I’m the eldest child too, and watching how she interacted with her younger siblings, my mom especially, set an example for me as my own sisters and I grew up.

Annie with bird

Annie loved her husband, her children and her grandchildren, her extended family, gardening, and being creative. She was always an animal advocate, loving many dogs, cats and birds during her life. Each time we visited her home, I was curious to see what new pet she had acquired, what new plant was blooming under her care. She, like my mom, was a wonderful story teller. Lying in my cousin’s basement bedroom as a child, I loved listening to the muffled rumble of voices in the dining room above. The comforting sound of Aunt Annie and my mom and Uncle Ralph talking and laughing soothed me into drowsiness. Peace descended along with sleep, knowing these stalwart people in my life were still awake, keeping watch in the night.

Annie Mom and Grandma

Aunt Annie and Uncle Ralph had a long and lively marriage. They seemed well suited, even to my childish notions of what romance was. Their love never faltered but seemed to grow stronger over the years. They raised their son and daughters, welcomed grandchildren. His strength complemented her sweet temperament perfectly. Uncle Ralph left us seven years ago. We all know he has been patiently waiting for Annie to join him, a blink of time for him, long months and years for her.

During the beautiful eulogy for my aunt, written and read by Annie’s younger daughter, my cousin told of a dream my aunt had last fall. She dreamed her dear husband Ralph drove up in a new, shiny black car. In the backseat, Annie’s mother and stepfather waited. As Ralph smiled and opened the door for her, ready to seat her in the car, Annie decided to run back inside the house, to leave a note for her daughter, who has been my aunt’s caretaker since her stroke 18 months ago. To her great disappointment, Annie woke up in her bed, confined still in a body that was failing her. She wept that morning. My understanding cousin, seeing her distress, told her mother that should her father return for her in his shiny black car, it was okay to leave with him.

Annie and Ralph 2

We know that happened. My uncle returned for his bride, his Annie, last Thursday. As we shared stories and tears today, shared love and respect, several of us had beautiful images of the two of them, healthy, young, strong, dancing together on streets of gold, reunited in joy. A love like that knows no bounds, lasts for eternity, overflows to us here in the earthly realm to warm our hearts and give us hope.

After a lovely time of celebration, the family returned to Annie’s house for a meal together and goodbyes before we departed. I walked with my mother, sisters and cousins in my aunt’s yard, admiring her flowers, feeling her presence, wishing we could have spoken about this shared passion that we have for gardening one more time. My sweet cousins gifted me, along with my mom and sisters, with metal containers to bring home. I have loved using metal buckets, washtubs and watering cans as receptacles for flowering plants of all types. I now have an oval tub on my brick patio that belonged to my aunt. Knowing how much her mother would enjoy passing along transplants from her garden, the cousin closest to me in age dug up Irises, in purples and yellows, and a hardy sedum plant called Autumn Joy, to give to us.

Annies tub

I am beyond touched by my cousins’ generosity. It means SO much to me to have plants in my garden that came from Aunt Annie’s yard. She tended these plants and now they will be tended by me.  I will smile each time I see them. Their beauty will remind me of hers, their presence a reminder of my cousin’s graciousness. I already know what I will plant in the oval container. I will share that in future pictures.

Annies irises

As we stood at the grave site, Paster Don spoke of the transformation that Annie has undergone, like a caterpillar who has emerged from her cocoon at last, as a gorgeous butterfly. She is free. She is made new and her spirit soars, whole, complete, beautiful. He closed our time of celebrating and saying goodbye, for now, with these words:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Phillipians 4:8 NIV

What fitting words for Anna Lou Reynolds, recently of this earth. In the wind that swirled around us, I could feel her caress, hear her voice, sense her joy. Until we see you again, Aunt Annie, tend your new garden, twirl and dip as you dance, watch over your loved ones. I am grateful for you. I love you.

Annie and Ralph

Journey 90: Traveling Across Kansas


Today’s journey was a literal one, first of all, as my mom and sisters and I traveled across Kansas today. Tomorrow is my Aunt Annie’s funeral. It’s a sad reason for the trip, and yet none of us would miss this opportunity to be with my aunt’s three children, my cousins, to remember this special lady. 

Greg made a very generous offer, before the four of us departed. He offered to meet us on the voyage home tomorrow, with Debbie’s car, so that she can head south toward her home in Oklahoma. Greg’s willingness to meet us in Kansas enabled the four of us to make this trip in one vehicle today instead of two. 


Secondly, the journey was one of reminiscing and remembering, chatting and connecting. Debbie graciously drove. We laughed and talked and shared about life. And we pulled up fun memories of long ago trips to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins who lived in a suburb near Wichita. 

We made the trip several times by bus, which was exciting for my young sisters and me. I realize now how challenging it must have been for a single mom with active daughters! Most often we traveled by car, sometimes with my grandparents packed into the car with us. 

The time spent with my family in Kansas was always magical, interesting, fun. We were close to our cousins, in age and in fondness. How quickly the years have passed. When did we all enter middle age?

Tonight that connection was instantly reformed with the cousins , as if we had all just spent time together last week. There were hugs and tears, laughter and shared memories. After spending time together at the funeral home during visitation, we gathered at my aunt’s home to share stories. 

The culmination of our evening was dinner at a local Chinese Restaurant. The buffet style meant everyone could choose what they wanted to eat. We were a big group that grew as other family members joined us. And we were a happy group, mindful of the reason we were gathered, and yet aware too that Aunt Annie was surely among us, laughing too at the tales circling the tables. 

Tomorrow we will say our “See you laters” to this beautiful lady. Tonight it was family time, mingled with love and humor, joy and sorrow. And for the first time in a very long time, my sisters and mom and I are sharing a room. When we were young, my mom would tell us stories after we were tucked into our beds, her voice comforting in the darkness and her imaginative tales enchanting. It’s been too many years since I’ve heard Mom’s story-telling. I can’t wait for lights out tonight! 


Journey 8: Another Path for Mindy

Mindy and Cindy Edinburgh Airport

Today’s journey was not one I would have chosen. This afternoon my cousin Mindy, more my sister and definitely my friend, passed away suddenly. The shock of that news has not quite worn off. I immediately went to be with her son, Harry, at the hospital. I got to say my goodbyes, and caress her face, even as I was wondering how it was possible this funny, sweet, good hearted woman was no longer present in the flesh. I just saw her yesterday. And although I was concerned by her state of health, I didn’t know that it was my final hug when I told her goodbye and left.

I’ve known Mindy all her life, of course. Her mother and my father were sister and brother. She is a few years younger than I am. What I remember from our childhood is an intelligent, bright-eyed, curious girl who loved animals, the outdoors and her family. As we grew up we saw less of each other, even though we never lived very far apart, distance wise. Then about 20 years ago we reconnected. I saw her occasionally in Joplin, her young son Harry in tow. I always enjoyed our visits, but they were more random occurrences rather than planned get togethers. That all changed when our family began to experience loss. First our Granny Grace passed on. Then, sadly, two of our cousins. We realized, when we would gather for another family funeral, that life was short and time precious. Our visits became more intentional.

Mindy and Cindy and Harry

And our relationship deepened. Mindy walked with me through the illness and loss of my father. We talked about all kinds of things and came to understand that our family shares an intuitive gift that pops up strongly in some of us. Mindy journeyed with me through some of the most challenging years of my life, always offering encouragement and a smile and a hug. I in turn walked with her through her mother’s illness and death, not quite two years ago. We became very close during that time.

Mindy was an amazing mom to her son. I watched Harry grow from an inquisitive toddler to a smart, talented young man. He often joined Mindy and me for lunch or dinner and we all loved watching a good movie together. I have seen all of The Hobbit movies with these two and Mindy’s brother, my other cousin, Jeff. We just watched the final Hobbit movie together two weeks ago. Mindy’s love for Harry was expansive and nurturing without being smothering. She encouraged him to pursue his hobbies and passions. And Harry loved his mom. He cared for her with such gentleness and such compassion during her illnesses.

Mindy and Harry

Mindy and Harry

As Harry neared the completion of his senior year, he knew what he wanted for his graduation present….a trip to Scotland. Mindy had already fought and won two battles with cancer. She was not going to disappoint this young man or postpone the trip. When she asked me to join them, I was thrilled. We made plans and secured our passports and on August 6, 2014, we began the adventure of a lifetime. I couldn’t have had two more amazing traveling companions. Their passion for Scotland equaled mine. They understood how seeing Scotland for the first time felt like a homecoming instead, because they felt that way too. We shared experiences and tours, breathtaking views and cozy hotel rooms. Harry was gracious about the daily quest that Mindy and I had of finding a new spot for afternoon tea. That custom became one of our most treasured memories of our 10 days together. The afternoon that we stood before Thirlestane Castle, in the small village of Lauder, we knew we had journeyed home. Mindy and I allowed Harry to get ahead of us and trot back occasionally to find us while we slowly explored the castle. We sensed so much there….ancestral family, faded grandeur, ancient history. We whispered as we stood in a paneled study, feeling all that was present with us there and knowing that we were surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses”.

Mindy and Cindy at Thirlestane Castle

I am so thankful for that trip. So grateful that Mindy and Harry asked me to accompany them. I will never forget the experience or the closeness we shared. Shortly after our return, Mindy discovered that the cancer had returned. She was quiet about it, only telling a few people. She didn’t want others to worry about her. She had fought this battle before. She intended to fight it again, and win. Sometimes victory looks differently than what we imagine. Mindy and I discussed a word for her, for 2015, at one of our lunch meetings, after she learned the extent of her illness. She chose the word Hope. I loved that choice. I love it still. There is hope. She did win. I know I will see Mindy again. And, I know she is present in spirit. Even now, as I type, I feel her here with me, making my scalp tingle as she watches over my shoulder while I try to capture what she meant to me in a short blog post. I love you, girl. Thank you for enriching my life. Your son, is my son now. Your brother, my brother. I will watch over them. I know you are watching over them too.

I am reminded of this quote from Gandalf the White, when Pippen the Hobbit thought the end was near. Says Gandalf, “End? No, the Journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it. White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.” That sounds a lot like Scotland. Enjoy that far green country, my dear Mindy. I will meet you there someday.

Mindy a far green country